Recently CNBC’s Darren Rovell wrote about legendary New York Yankees stadium announcer Bob Shepard, and new voice technology that would allow Shepard to continue in his role even after he has passed away (Shepard is 97). Rovell received a lot of email on the subject, and a majority of readers said they were in favor of this digital immortality.
As a former Yankees media relations intern I worked with Bob Shepard a little bit and have the utmost respect for him as a professional and a person. But this is a bad idea, and it has nothing to do with Shepard’s talents. It’s about building brands through a Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe (DINU).
The Yankees are the Yankees because of their rich history. Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra… the list goes on. And it’s also Yankee Stadium and George Steinbrenner and Damn Yankees and even George Costanza (I actually held his job, assistant to the Traveling Secretary, for a while). While all of these people, places and things add up to the brand that is the New York Yankees, none of them are bigger than the New York Yankees. To keep Shepard in his job in perpetuity would prevent a new part of the Yankees universe from being created. Would a new announcer be better than Shepard? Probably not, but maybe. But better isn’t the point. A new announcer would in his or her own way continue to build the brand
We should no more want to keep Shepard forever than we should want to build a robot replica of Derek Jeter so that he can be the Yankees shortstop forever. People sometimes criticize the concept of “change for change sake” but natural change, a passing of the guard, is an integral part of any good narrative.